Railroad contracts to cost city nearly $31,000

The city of Claremore approved contracts with BNSF and Union Pacific railroads in the last month for a total of $30,946 on top of a project already $260,000 over budget before work has begun.

The purpose of the contracts is to replace a section of water line on First Street between Owalla Avenue and Florence Avenue, crossing beneath both rail lines.

“We’ve had significant complaints about water quality in that area,” said City Engineer Garrett Ball. Mineral build-up inside the existing pipe has effectively narrowed it from eight to four inches, impacting water quality and flow.

When the contract with BNSF was signed in March, Ball said, “The license agreement is very one sided toward BNSF. The issue we have is that there is really no negotiating power with them to change that. Basically, if you want the pipeline crossing their property you have to agree to their terms.”

According to statements made during previous city council meetings, the contract with BNSF is good for 25 years and states that at any point BNSF can give the city 30 days notice to remove the pipe from their property.

The contract was approved by council but sent for renegotiation.

The contract with Union Pacific does not have an expiration date but also says the contract may be terminated with 30 days of written notice from either party.

On Monday’s meeting of the Claremore City Council Ball said, “Union Pacific’s agreement is a little better than BNSF’s was. The fee is considerably more, but there is no 25 year expiration on the agreement so in the interest of the public it is better than the one we have with BNSF.”

The First Street waterline project is set to begin by the end of April.

City Manager Jim Thomas said that the cost of the project over budget for FY 2018-19 will be budgeted into FY 2019-20.

“We have a good working relationship with both Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe,” Thomas said, also highlighting the city’s ongoing quite zone project. “The challenge is that they are both big organizations so it take a while to get things done.”